Legislation to Bypass Unions Moves on Senate Side
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) voted unanimously to approve a new measure that would allow federal agencies to bypass employee unions when blocking access to webmail and other websites believed to be security risks.
The Federal Information Systems Safeguard Act would give agency heads the authority to sidestep federal rules that currently require them to consult with unions about workplace matters in order “to limit, restrict, or prohibit access to any website the head of the agency determines to present a current or future security weakness.”
Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), the lead sponsor of the legislation, said it would "[put] us on a path forward to ensure that federal agencies can act quickly to address any vulnerabilities and secure their IT networks.”
Similar legislation has been brought on the House side, though it would extend authority farther and allow agency heads to "take any action" necessary to remediate security vulnerabilities. This language has had push back from Democrats.
"No matter what you believe about blocking employee access to email, this bill goes so far beyond that it loses the point," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR), said of the House bill.
On the Senate side, Democrats were less opposed to the Ernst bill after Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the ranking Democrat on HSGAC, successfully tacked on an amendment that would require agency heads, once an action has been taken, to “take into consideration and seek guidance on the personal communication needs of the employees of the agency.”
Posted in From the Hill